The Athasian cosmology


There is so much confusion about Athasian cosmology. Here is the Athasian cosmology as intended by the designers (in my opinion).

(Andrea Ferrari) #2

I agree with that idea. But what about the Black? If it’s like the plane of Shadow, does it mean that it is coexistent with the material plane of Athas?


Hades - yes. In 2E the Black was connected to Athas, and the Hollow connected to the black. In 'Defilers and Preservers it is described like this -

the Black is one of two planes that directly touch the prime world of Athas; the
other is the Gray. The Black, a realm of chill darkness similar to the Demiplane of
Shadow, can be accessed wherever light creates shadows. In the absence of light, no
connection to the Black exists

The important thing is how Athas relates to the Great Wheel Cosmology. Clearly the designers meant for Athasians with the ability to do so to be able to travel to the elemental planes, but equally traveling to the elemental planes could not be a shortcut to reach the rest of the multiverse. Therefore it isn’t only Athas that is cut off from the rest of the multiverse, but also a portion of the inner elemental planes, which are now unique and very different from the elemental planes that they were cut off from eons ago.

UPDATE: Included the Black and the Hollow in the picture.

(Andrea Ferrari) #4

That makes perfect sense. The fact that Athas is so “locked” from the rest of the multiverse resolves a HUGE plot-hole: why ultra powrful casters like SKs stay on a place with Athas and spend so much resources keeping trapped Rajaat instead of leaving Athas to its fate and go conquer another plane?


Hades - totally agree. I think that the SK’s probably COULD leave but their knowledge of the multiverse beyond the Gray is almost non-existent and therefore they never put in a concerted effort.

Dregoth on the other hand has been to the planes beyond the Gray. In my opinion the rational choice for Dregoth is to leave Athas and take his Dray with him to colonize some other world. I also think that he would do that rather than play out the scenario in Dregoth Ascending. After all, he knows that he can’t be a real god on Athas, and Athas is dying world anyway, so he is probably planning on leaving. Perhaps the PCs find the Planar Gate (which Dregoth couldn’t take with him), and adventure ensues.

(Andrea Ferrari) #6

Despite being supra-intelligent, Dregoth seems to be quite “insane” (not as Daskinor, of course). MA argued with him a lot about the fact that “if godhood is possible on Athas, why Rajaat didn’t achieve that?”, but Dregoth didn’t listened to him.

I think that Dregoth’s “obsession” to Athas is due ho his rancor and thirst of vengeance against the SKs. He has the power and the means to leva Athas and conquer at least a kingdom on another plane (maybe in some “low-powered setting” like Krynn), but he simply WANTS vengeance.


You may be right. One thing you can be certain of - Dregoth is going to bring far more resources to bear than what he brought in Dregoth Ascending.

(Andrea Ferrari) #8

Indeed: with access to Outer Planes (iirc he even made a alliance of convenience with the Baatezu, that wanted access to Athas) he has a staggering amount of resources.

I find funny that a lot of threads there boils down to Dregoth. The almost universal idea is that the first iteration of Dark Sun is better than the second one (playing post PP imho feels like to play in a campaign when the PCs are just side characters of the story), but TSR imho did a wonderful job with Dregoth. Borys as the Dragon of Tyr is one of my fave big bads ever, but Dregoth is indeed a worthy successor.

And in the long run Dregoth may be an ever scarier villain: Borys for all his evil wants to mainatin status-quo, but Dregoth wants to bring change (for the worse for a lot of Athasians).


People seem to be divided on it. People that hate the PP tend to like the first box. I actually like the PP but hate what it does to the setting post PP (and the supplement BtPP is terrible), so I choose to consider the PP a ‘what if’ scenario.

(Stuart Lynch) #10

If there have never been any Gods on Athas (the view I subscribe to), where did the Gray come from? As a planar barrier (and thats pretty much what it is, separating Athas and its inner planes from the rest of the Great Wheel) it’s unique in the (A)D&D cosmology. Anyone have any theories?

(Felix Gonzalez) #11 had an interesting Alternate Timeline that explained the gray as being created by Rajaat to block the gods from intervening in his plans, and creating the Deadlands at the same time. Will have to look it up, it has been a while since i read it.

Edit: I believe this is it, hope it helps:


Good question and one that I am agnostic on. I know that there are people that point the finger at Rajaat, but I think he had nothing to do with it (after all, it was there long before he even existed). The why of it is a good question. Another question is why the Athasian dead are denied a true afterlife, even though their souls are clearly attempting to reach the outer planes (which indicates that there is something unnatural about the Gray).

(Stuart Lynch) #13

Thanks for the link Felix - unfortunately it goes with the idea of Gods on Athas :confused:
I’m with you Redking - I don’t buy that Rajaat had anything to do with it. We’d have seen some form of divinity arise before he got his grubby mitts on the Pristine Tower and I dislike the idea of The Warbringer being responsible for everything thats different about Athas.
The way I see it there are 3 possibilities (and we can throw in the sealing of the Athasian Crystal Sphere while we’re at it):

  1. The Gray is a natural occurrence. Not a fan of this as it doesn’t appear anywhere else in the D&D cosmology.
  2. It was brought into being by a force native to Athas. If this is the case then it must be a pre-Blue Age civilisation we know nothing about as from the Rhulisti onwards we only have elemental clerics.
  3. It was created by a force external to Athas.
    As an aside, while the Imaskari of Toril were able to block 2 pantheons of Gods from interfacing with Realmspace in the normal way, they couldn’t come near a total block on divine power. Overpowers like Ao would probably have that capability.

(Felix Gonzalez) #14

Yeah, neither do i (re: Rajaat being responsible for all of Athas’ problems). Just posted for any one interested and for gleaning ideas. Personally i do not use it either. I have most of the 2e, 3.5e, 4e, and magazine articles for dark sun and have never seen much on the cosmology, much less how it occured.

Edit: I like point 3, maybe the gods created the Grey to keep all of creation from being defiled. Dunno, just an idea.


Couple thoughts. In the old 2e Forgotten Realms box set about Netheril, there are a number of level 9+ spells. One of them was “Proctiv’s Breach Crystal Sphere,” an 11th-level spell. The reverse of this spell would permanently LOCK a crystal sphere, making it impassable. Granted, planar travel to and from was still a possibility. But I always felt that something similar could explain why Athas is so cut off and isolated (and directly and simply explains why Athas’ crystal sphere is impassable).

But I don’t think it’s due to Rajaat. The planar experiments to the south that created the deadlands make it pretty clear that planar travel / plane walking were NOT really in Rajaat’s wheelhouse of skills. He didn’t know how it worked, really. Which is why those experiments were ongoing for centuries, and ultimately wound up in the gate experiment that killed everyone.

However, Dregoth’s planar mirror make it clear and obvious that SOMEONE knew about and participated in planar travel, before ultimately being lost and forgotten in time. Whoever that someone was, maybe THEY had something to di with (or at least better understood) the isolated planar nature of Athas and its sealed crystal sphere.

Another thing to consider is the Githyanki city of Yathazor and the history of the gith. It’s never clearly stated how long ago that all went down. So maybe the original githyanki incursion predated the isolation. Maybe the githzerai mind bomb that devolved all the githynki into the gith was related to the isolation.

Things to consider.


I think that Athas is located in an alternative prime material plane. That means that spelljammers from the prime material plane on the Great Wheel can never access Athas through spelljamming because Athas is on a different plane altogether.


Pretty sure one of the supplements explicitly said that Athas’ crystal sphere is permanently closed, in addition to being in a very remote section of wild space.

(Stuart Lynch) #19

I’d forgotten about Proctiv and Netherese Spelljamming. Could be an explanation for the Sphere being sealed.
I dislike the idea of Athas being on a different Prime Material Plane. Between Planescape and Spelljammer the entire AD&D cosmology can be reconciled (which I why I despised 3rd Ed Realms for upending the Great Wheel cosmology) and I like that. Plus there’s enough little mentions of Athas in Planescape to make plain it is in the standard cosmology, just rather inaccessible for the most part.


Kalindren - alternate primes are still part of the standard cosmology. Alternative prime material planes have always been part of the Great Wheel cosmology.

It might be a moot point if you are ruling that Athas in inaccessible to spelljamming anyway (the Spacefarer’s Handbook says Athas is not on the spacelanes where the other campaign settings can be found).

(Stuart Lynch) #21

The advantage and disadvantage of my OCD tendencies :wink: